11-year-old performs healing dances to help rid his Manitoba First Nation of COVID-19

An 11-year-old boy is dancing for the people battling COVID-19 in his northern Manitoba First Nation and to force the illness out of his community.

Nathaniel Sinclair lives in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan, which is still getting military aid

Nathaniel Sinclair aspires to be a men's traditional dancer. He's self-taught himself traditional dancing since he was a toddler. (Submitted by Leo Sinclair)

An 11-year-old boy is dancing for the people battling COVID-19 in his northern Manitoba First Nation and to force the illness out of his community.

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan, has been receiving aid from the Canadian Armed Forces, Red Cross and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak for a COVID-19 outbreak since mid-March.

The community's cases are decreasing, but Nathaniel Sinclair wanted to help his community heal even more through his own traditional healing dance.

"I'm praying for the sick ones and the emergency responders," said Nathaniel, who has performed three dances in his home already.

Nathaniel, a Grade 5 student, has been enamoured by traditional dancing since his mother, Nadine Sinclair, first brought him to a community powwow when he was two years old.

"As soon as he heard the beat of the drum, he just went on the powwow grounds and didn't want to stop dancing," said Sinclair.

Neither Sinclair nor her husband Leo participated in traditional dancing when they grew up. Nathaniel has been teaching himself by watching men's traditional dancers at powwows and YouTube videos.

Powwow dancing is an expression of spirituality, history and culture. There are various forms of powwow dances, some with regional variations and others are specific to certain First Nations, or events or elements of nature.

Nathaniel performs the Sneak-Up, Footslide, Crow Hop, Duck and Dive and regular traditional, he said.

Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, a community of roughly 3,000 people about 710 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, saw a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases last month.

There were 281 known active cases in the community as of March 15. The military, Red Cross, as well as ambassadors from MKO, were sent to provide aid in the community.

The First Nation has around 50 known active cases now, but it remains under lockdown and the military is still there, Sinclair said.

Nathaniel Sinclair, 11, will be performing healing dances for his community until the number of known active COVID-19 cases reaches zero, he said. (Submitted by Leo Sinclair)

During lockdown, Nathaniel asked his parents to take a video of him dancing while wearing his regalia. He wanted to dance for the community so the illness would leave the reserve, said Sinclair.

Nathaniel performed his third dance Wednesday and plans to continue dancing "until there are no more [COVID-19] cases and they're all recovered," he said.

Meanwhile, Sinclair is beaming with pride for her son.

"He makes me very proud that he's doing these dances," she said. "He inspires me a lot with whatever dances he can come up with."

Nathaniel hopes to continue improving his skills so that when he gets older, he can be a men's traditional dancer.